Leeds Playhouse: supporting you to live a creative later life

8/18/2020 2:07:09 PM
Leeds Playhouse: supporting you to live a creative later life
Fantasic For Families

You'll find Leeds Playhouse at the heart of the city, producing brand new theatre shows for all tastes and all ages. It's also one of five creative organisations to be shortlisted for this year's Best Age-Friendly Cultural Organisation Award in our annual Fantastic for Families Awards. The team have demonstrated an excellent welcome for older family members as well as a great range of shows and activities for all ages. Here we find out more about how they're supporting people to live a creative later life.

We are thrilled that Leeds Playhouse has been shortlisted for the Best Age-Friendly Cultural Organisation Award for its commitment to older people’s creativity. The Playhouse’s sector-leading Creative Engagement team works with over 12,000 people aged 0 - 95 every year through workshops and creative projects using theatre to open up possibilities. Its Heydays programme aimed at over 55s and Our Time, for people living with dementia and their supporters offer regular, stimulating social opportunities to a diverse range of older people. The Playhouse believes in the right to live a creative later life, and it supports older people to realise this by building long-term, collaborative relationships using theatre.

Committed to providing accessible facilities, the Playhouse embarked on a detailed consultation with older participants to inform its recent £16m redevelopment, ensuring age-friendly considerations were applied in order to offer a friendly welcome to family members of all ages. But the Playhouse goes further than simply providing accessible facilities, by inviting older people and people living with dementia to set the agenda, and to share their creative skills through meaningful collaboration.

Our recent work includes creating Maggie May, a new play about adjusting to life with dementia by Frances Poet, in a three-year collaboration with people living with dementia in Leeds. An intergenerational project Dinner 18:55 directed by Playhouse Older People’s Manager, Maggie De Ruyck, united members of Heydays and Playhouse Youth Theatre participants in exploring generational differences and the commonalities they shared. The Every Third Minute curators, a group of people living with dementia, were supported by the Playhouse’s Theatre and Dementia specialist, Nicky Taylor, to co-produce a conference for NHS staff demonstrating the benefits of the arts as a tool towards better dementia care. The Playhouse’s on and off-stage work with older people constantly challenges ageist stereotypes and advocates for a fulfilled later life full of creative possibilities.

The cast of a play stand in a line on stage and wave at the audience

We are still here

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted older people, and whilst the doors to the Playhouse have been closed, the ambition to connect, engage and support our community is stronger than ever. Through Playhouse Connect the organisation has communicated and worked with over 4,000 people through direct contact, online activity and regular newsletters. Recognising the digital divide, older people without online access have been supported through postal packages with at-home creative activities and regular friendly, telephone calls from a staff member or volunteer. By coaching dozens of individuals to use online platforms for the first time, and sourcing devices and data where participants had no access, the Playhouse has continued to run its weekly sessions for people living with dementia and their supporters and virtual Heydays activities.

The currently reduced staff team is working hard to make sure it stays connected with older participants for as long as it necessary, whilst looking ahead to brighter days when gathering together at the Playhouse is possible again.

Stay up to date with activities for people of all ages, including young people, refugee and asylum-seeking communities, and support for teachers by following our social media channels @LeedsPlayhouse.

If you have any questions, you can reach our team at engagement@leedsplayhouse.org.uk.

Caddick is the Principal Capital and Families Partner for Leeds Playhouse

Images: Leeds Playhouse cr. Jim Stephenson, The cast of Dinner 1855 cr. David Lindsay

What now? Find events near you, online-events, or activities to do at home with kids.

See the full Fantastic for Families Awards shortlist

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